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May 4, 2015

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GOP senators sound alarm on defense cuts

McCain, Graham, Ayotte visit Nellis Air Force Base, address sequestration


Tovin Lapan

Sen. John McCain of Arizona addresses a crowd at the College of Southern Nevada on the impact of large cuts on defense spending. Because Democrats and Republicans could not reach a budget reduction agreement, automatic cuts are scheduled to take effect at the beginning of 2013.

Click to enlarge photo

David DuVall and Mary Lou Anderson protest outside a town hall meeting held by three Republican senators on the looming cuts to the federal budget known as sequestration.

Three Republican senators are attempting to accomplish what a “supercommittee” of 12 legislators could not: bring both parties together for a budget compromise that would dodge mandatory cuts set to take effect in January.

After visiting Nellis Air Force Base, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina held a town hall meeting Monday at the College of Southern Nevada’s North Las Vegas campus to emphasize the “catastrophic” effects the cuts would have on U.S. defense.

“We are facing draconian cuts to our nation’s defense as of the first of January 2013,” McCain said. “Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has stated unequivocally that it would devastate our nation’s defense ... if these cuts are allowed to take effect. I’m not sure how many Americans are aware of the dramatic impact that this would have, not only our equipment and training but also on the ability to retain men and women in the military who wish to continue to serve.”

The trio’s tour, “Preserving America’s Strength” — which already has visited Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire — is designed to sound the alarm on sequestration.

In 2011, a fight over raising the debt ceiling boiled over into a budget quagmire. Republicans wanted spending cuts before signing off on a $2.1 trillion increase of the cap on U.S. borrowing power. In the end, the debt ceiling was raised, but both parties agreed to form a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the so-called supercommittee, tasked with reaching a consensus on how to reduce the federal budget.

Looming over the committee was sequestration, automatic widespread cuts that would trigger if the 12 lawmakers could not reach consensus. No deal was reached, and now $110 million in cuts spread over defense and domestic programs loom.

Veteran’s benefits, Medicaid and food stamps are exempt. President Barack Obama recently exempted military personnel, as well.

“What I’m here to do along with my colleagues is to urge both parties to deal with this is in a responsible manner. Congress has done some dumb things, and this is probably at the top of the list,” Graham said. “If you can't resolve the debt situation without destroying the military, you’ve really screwed up. ... (The supercommittee) failed.”

Graham said he and the two other GOP senators, who are all members on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, are suggesting a stay on sequestration for four months so the issue can be worked out after the November elections.

Both Sen. Dean Heller and Sen. Harry Reid were invited to the meeting, according to a tour release, but neither appeared.

“I’m disappointed my Republican colleagues who are in Nevada today have forgotten that their party helped to put sequestration in place and are now choosing to put millionaires ahead of the military,” Reid said in a statement released in response to the visit. “And I am disappointed my Republican colleagues have forgotten that it was their party’s refusal to adopt a balanced approach that closes corporate tax loopholes and asks the wealthiest to pay a little more that will cause these defense and domestic cuts to occur.”

After the three senators gave opening statements, they took questions and comments from the few dozen in attendance. At that point, the discussion focused more on the merits of defense spending in general than how to tackle sequestration.

Some supported the senators, who argued that such large reductions in military spending would harm the economy, weaken the U.S. position globally and, as Graham suggested, leave the country vulnerable to threats from China and Iran.

Graham said any budget-reduction plan must start with sharp reductions in entitlement programs, which was met with both jeers and cheers.

David DuVall, an Arizona resident who attended the event, called the senators’ travels a “tour of fear” and said the foreclosure rate and the winnowing of Medicaid and food stamp rolls were more pressing issues.

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  1. So if Sheldon "right wing" Adelson and Steve Weinburg get their way, they don't pay an extra dime? While the poor slobs they employ make beans and peanuts? Something wrong here..

  2. Thank Paul Ryan for killing the 'Grand Bargain' reached by President Obama and Speaker of the House Boehner.

    "Mr. Ryan's enormous influence was apparent last summer when Representative Eric Cantor, the second most powerful House Republican, told Mr. Obama during negotiations over an attempted bipartisan "grand bargain" that Mr. Ryan disliked its policy and was concerned that a deal would pave the way for Mr. Obama's easy re-election, according to a Democrat and a Republican who were briefed on the conversation."

  3. The Republicans agreed to these cuts and now they're crying. In reality, the Defense Department can take these cuts. The past and current DOD budgets are full of bloat. Yes, some will lose their jobs but maybe the DOD can trim a lot of useless bloat and save the taxpayers money.

  4. Right now th U.S. can destroy the world 23 times over. Wouldn't 10 times over be enough? We can certainly afford to cut the D.O.D., and put that money to better use, such as helping those who can't help themselves( that's what a good Christian does.)

  5. I enjoy reading all of the reasons the defense budget should be cut. Then I read the comment about a 17-21 year old making $40,000 with no skills (more like $35,000 with housing and substance allowances). And that is after completing both basic training and occupation training. In other words, he (or she) makes about what a firefighter or police officer does with the same training levels. Even a senior non-commissioned officer (E-7) with 20 years of service only makes $72,204 and if he retires at 20 years will only have a retirement of $25,536. Military retirement does not include the housing or substance allowances that are part of a married persons pay.

    That airman or soldier is earning his pay. So we rather take his pay and give it to someone to sit at home and collect his welfare, food stamps, 8a housing and we don't expect them to do anything for it? The system is broken!

    I will be the first one to say that the military procurement system is broken. But then again, the entire US Government procurement system isn't in any better shape.

    Enough of my rant.

  6. "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents." Major General U.S. Marine Corps Smedley D. Butler

    "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." - President Dwight Eisenhower (WWII Commander of Allied Forces)

  7. McCain unleashed Sarah Palin on the world. There is nothing he can do or say that will ever be respected again.

  8. We need to STRATEGICALLY CUT defense spending dramatically. We do NOT need to have hundreds of thousands of American troops permanent party in Europe, Guam, Japan..... This is excessive and not cost effective. We need to continue to maintain technology, special forces, and SECURE OUR BORDERS FROM INVASION. We do not need to provide Europe with a missile defense shield. Can they not provide SOME of their own defense?